Watford respectfully formed a guard of honour, the flames went up, the home crowd chanted “champions” and out walked Kenedy and the rest of the Chelsea reserves.
The vast majority of the champions were sat on the substitutes’ bench or in the stands for this most surreal of coronations for the Premier League title winners.
Every good party has a buffet and Diego Costa, who was among the Chelsea substitutes, made a half-time visit to the press room and briefly considered the cheese and biscuits before opting for a satsuma.
“I’m very angry with him,” joked head coach Antonio Conte. “He must think to give me a bit to share. I was suffering during the game. To eat something, that would be good.”
Chelsea do not get the trophy until after Sunday’s final League game of the season against Sunderland and Conte already has an eye on the FA Cup final against Arsenal.
“You must have a plan in your mind, in your head,” said Conte. “I think the FA Cup final, you don’t play that on Saturday. You start to play the final 10 days before. For this reason, in my head, I have a plan to try to arrive to play the final in the best condition.”
Crowned: Antonio Conte was in jolly mood, despite some weak performances from his second team Credit: Getty
Conte’s changes did at least allow John Terry to start his Stamford Bridge goodbye, albeit with mixed results as the Chelsea captain scored and then gave a goal away in less than a minute. Terry was not the only culprit on what turned into a chaotic night, as Chelsea also surrendered a two-goal advantage in the second half before substitute Cesc Fabregas struck a late winner to condemn Watford to a fifth successive defeat.
Terry’s first League start since Sept 11 looked to be going perfectly when he gave Chelsea a 22nd-minute lead from a Willian corner.
Kurt Zouma headed the ball against Terry and the 36-year-old reacted quickest to poke it into the net for his 67th Chelsea goal and the celebrations began.
But quicker than any Chelsea fan could mutter ‘maybe we should have given him another year’, Terry gifted Watford their first goal away from Vicarage Road since January.
Terry headed what looked like a routine clearance straight into the path of Étienne Capoue, who nodded the ball over stand-in goalkeeper Asmir Begovic for the equaliser. The mistake had come just 36 seconds after the goal.
Terry was one of nine changes from the Chelsea team who defeated West Bromwich Albion to clinch the title last Friday night.
The biggest surprise was perhaps the inclusion of Brazilian Kenedy, whose only previous League appearance was for Watford in September before his loan move was cut short. Eden Hazard was one of the few first-team regulars who started and the Belgian made and squandered a great chance after Capoue had equalised.
Heart of the club: John Terry scored one and gave away another Credit: Reuters
Chelsea did not have to wait too long to regain the lead, as César Azpilicueta scored his first League goal of the season nine minutes before half-time.
Daryl Janmaat headed Hazard’s corner out to the edge of the penalty area and Azpilicueta struck a perfectly-driven shot that gave Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes no chance.
Conte buried any theories that he may have been taking things easy after the title success by celebrating Azpilicueta’s goal wildly with his staff in the home dugout.
For once, however, Conte was not the most animated coach on the touchline, as Watford’s under-pressure manager Walter Mazzarri ranted and raved his way through the game – even manhandling a member of his own staff.
Mazarri’s mood darkened considerably just four minutes after the restart, when his side conceded a third goal that should have killed the game.
Michy Batshuayi was rewarded for scoring the all-important goal at the Hawthorns with his first League start for Chelsea since signing for £33 million from Marseille and the Belgian was on target again.
Willian had seen a shot saved by Gomes and, from the resulting corner, Kenedy’s effort was deflected into the path of Nathan Aké who squared for Batshuayi to deposit the ball into the net.
A rare treat: Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea scores his side’s second goal Credit: Getty
That should have been the start of the procession, but Chelsea once again conceded almost immediately after they had scored. This time, a mistake from Zouma let in Janmaat, who raced into the area and danced around Aké before curling the ball into the corner of the net.
It was a sloppy goal to let in and Conte turned towards his bench in anger. The Italian’s summer shopping list may have got a little longer.
Batshuayi and Azpilicueta tested Gomes before the visitors got back on level terms with 16 minutes remaining.
Simple: Ake slipped it to Batshuayi, who could hardly miss Credit: Reuters
Tom Cleverley’s cross was not properly dealt with by Zouma and Watford substitute Stefano Okaka, who had only been on the pitch for three minutes, took full advantage.
Conte threw on Fabregas and Pedro in search of a winner, and it was Fabregas who netted in the 88th minute to ensure the title party did not fall flat. The midfielder received the ball from Willian, struck the ball into the turf and it whistled past Gomes.
There were fireworks at the end, as Sebastian Prödl was dismissed after being shown a second yellow card, the Watford players rowed among themselves and blue streamers fell from the sky.
Conte even had a crown placed on his head by substitute Ola Aina, which Terry later wore, but the real Chelsea coronation will take place on Sunday – as long as Costa can drag himself away from the buffet
Culled from Telegraph